A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bridgeport Bluefish & The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, CT.

OK, I know Bridgeport is a LONG way from Kentucky, but we did do it on our week long road trip!

I was very excited about seeing this park. I will try to get some pictures up soon, but this is a great park right off of the interstate. It is very accessible, and we didn't have to drive through town to get to it.

They had a nice, well stocked gift shop that even had some bargains. Unfortunately, I did not find a card set, and I did hear rumors that one would not be produced this year for this team. This is unfortunate, as the team seemed talented.

The park is elevated on the outside. You do have to go up a lot of steps to get to the main entrance, and then come down some, depending on where your seat is, once inside.
The really cool thing about this park is it has a very industrial feel. There is some factory beside it, and some other buildings. The Ballpark at Harbor Yard has maybe the coolest feature I have ever found at a park- a rail line. Trains pass over the outfield area every 15 minutes or so. Locals may not appreciate it, and season ticket holders are probably tired of the novelty, but it is unique!

The staff was generally friendly, we talked to a couple of park employees who were great. They obviously took a lot of pride in the team and in the park. The park did seem to have a lot of ushers who were obtrusive at times. I will take enthusiastic ushers anyday over ones that don't pay attention though.

I took a lot of photos at this park, and the pictures don't do it justice. The park is one that you need to see in person.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Atlantic League vs. The Frontier League

Bridgeport and York are both members of the Atlantic League. This is a great, established league. I love the Frontier League and enjoy getting out to see this league whenever I can. I was excited to see how the Atlantic League compared.

We were totally impressed with the way these guys operate. I have read that the Atlantic League maintains a standard with the parks comparable to AA. I would rate these two parks at better than AA in general.

I love the teams that the Frontier League puts on the field. The Frontier League seems to have a lot of guys who weren't picked in the draft, or who have played some around the A level. They are young prospects trying to sneak in or back in to affiliated ball. With the exception of Joe Charboneau having one Veeckish at bat for the Canton Crocs in 2000, I can't think of any other former Major Leaguer appearing in a Frontier League game.

The Atlantic League seems full of former AA and AAA guys, along with some notable former Major Leaguers. It was fun catching Pete Rose Jr. in this league. Gary Carter and Tim Raines are managers. There are names in these league you will recognize from the 80s and 90s.

We had a great time catching games in the Atlantic League. We love the Frontier League too. I guess, with any independent league or minor league team, it is good seeing the local community come out to support them.

York Revolution at Sovereign Bank Stadium, York, PA.

Maybe 45 minutes from the Gettysburg area is York. Do to time limits, we really weren't able to see a lot of this town, but we did make it out for a ball game!

We were able to catch games at two Atlantic League parks this time around and I am so glad that we did. This are great parks, well maintained and exciting.

The York Revolution play at Sovereign Bank Stadium. Initially I felt overwhelmed by the park. You walk in and the place is electric. There is a lot to take in. Looking towards the outfield, the place seems excitingly inconsistent.

To the left is the Arch Nemesis which is 6 inches taller than the Green Monster. At over 37 and a half feet, it is something. It is pretty bold of this team to one up the Red Sox, and it really gives this stadium some character.

Moving along, the park also has a visible children's play area, and then standard park adds. The adds seem to be layered a bit, with some over the outfield wall.

Another very cool tradition at this young park is the firing of a canon when a player for the Revolution hits a home run. Seriously! I am not making this up!

Also, adding to the team's boldness, they do have some in between inning entertainment provided by the "Big Hitters". The Big Hitters are a group of guys with some size to them. They dance.

Their gift shop was well stocked with the usual unique and interesting items.

Similar to what I have seen with the Florence Freedom, the Revolution was giving away nice, small magazine style programs. Along with the usual adds, the Revolution included some cool articles about some of their players, stats, etc. A great feature I noticed that other teams neglect is that they note national anthem performers. I would LOVE to see other teams give this kind of credit in their programs.

The only problem at this venue is that it took us a little while to park and to buy tickets. We may have went on an exceptionally enthusiastic day though. They had a good crowd. Much better than I expected for Indy league ball. Then again, I have seen a lot of local support for many minor league teams this year, thank goodness!

This team draws a great, friendly crowd that seemed appreciative of the action on the field. There were chants, and friendly banter in the stands. I can honestly say there was an almost Major League vibe going on. This is the kind of park I would like to visit again. A lot of care has gone in to the making of this team and park. The locals seem to support the team, and they have a lot to be proud of!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Appalachian Power Park (again)

With a little retooling on our trip schedule, we were able to fit this game in kind of last minute. Originally, we weren't going to be in the Charleston WV area, then we realized it would be pretty easy to get to this area for a second time this year.

This is a cool park, and I was excited about getting to see a game here. The park is quirky and scrappy. It is small and you feel very close to the action.

The fans seemed pretty diverse. In some ways, I felt like I was at a high school sports event, as there were a LOT of kids and teenagers running around. I also saw plenty of older guys there paying close attention to the action on the field. I noticed one of the older guys yell (by name) at one of the kids to set down. The kid apologized and set down. So the crowd seemed familiar with each other and respectful.

Dennis Haskins, Mr. Belding from the show "Saved By the Bell" was the "promotion" on the night I was there. It was kind of funny, there were several signs promoting an appearance by Mr. Belding. I don't think I noticed any promo material using the actors real name.

Haskins was very entertaining. He was interviewed a lot, and he had a very long autograph line. He sang a few songs too! He did a very respectable "Brown Eyed Girl" between the game and the fireworks. In fact, I need to find a recording of him doing this song, as it is still in my head!

Dora the Explorer was there too. She must also be a big fan of baseball. I have seen her in Toledo, Lexington and now Charleston this year.

It was a good game, with Kannapolis beating up on the Power for the win, but the Charleston crowd seemed happy. It was a fun night.

We stayed for fireworks after the game. It was a great show. The fireworks, like the action on the field, felt very close. In fact, I had to dust a little black dust off of my clothes afterwards.

I forget the exact promotion (I think it was a strike out batter of the game promotion) but you could take your ticket from the nights game to a Quaker Steak and Lube for for 6 free wings with a food purchase! If you have ever had wings from this chain, you know this is a great prize. Unlike other similar promotions, we took advantage of this one (I probably own 60 expired coupons for a free White Castle burger given out at various ballparks).

I saw a little more of Charleston on this trip. I didn't think Charleston had a lot going for it, but the fact that a Quaker Steak is there (the chain seems to mostly be in PA and OH) definitely improves the areas coolness score. Actually a minor league ballpark, a nice mall AND a Quaker Steak pretty much define a cool town.

New England

OK, I know I am trying to keep things mostly centered around professional baseball in and near the great state of Kentucky. Well, recently we took a trip up to New England to visit several parks between here and there. In fact, within about a 1 week period we saw ballparks between Charleston West Virginia and Portland Maine. We visited 10 parks, seeing games at 5.

Some I had visited before and it was nice seeing them again.

Some were very kind and generous about letting me look around even during off hours (the folks with the Hudson Valley Renegades were super!) while other parks had very limited access when games were not being played (Hadlock Field in Portland and the new Coca Cola Park in PA come to mind). Anyway, it is always fun checking a park out!

I will try to get some reviews and pictures up over the next few days.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Myron Noodleman and Lousville Bats vs. Charlotte Knights

I am almost embarrassed to admit that this was my first time seeing the Bats this year. Mostly because of the weather and other commitments, I just haven't been able to make it to a Bats game until this last Saturday.
I experienced a little deja vu watching this Bats team. It seemed like I had watched the same team in Chattanooga last year. I guess that's a good thing.
It is funny, sometimes when you see several different minor league teams that are linked to the same big league team, you start to see the same faces. Its great when you see those guys at AA one year, and AAA the next.
I have experienced this with the White Sox's AAA team, the Knights. I have seen the White Sox a few times over the last several years and I have seen the Knights play here and there. In 06, I remember Josh Fields playing for the Knights against the Mud Hens in Toledo. I saw him the next year at spring training with the White Sox. It was nice seeing him again with the Knights this past weekend.
I really like Louisville Slugger Field too. It is a very photogenic place to catch a game. It is in a city area. I do prefer seeing games a little more "out" with green trees behind the outfield wall, but Louisville looks so nice. With the bridge visible, you do know you are in a bigger area, but it is still Kentucky!
This park is clean and friendly. There are ushers and staff that are very visible and helpful, but they are unobtrusive. Most seemed eager to talk about baseball.
Parking is plentiful and easy to access. I saw most lots next to the park charging a reasonable $5.
This was also my first chance to catch Myron Noodleman which was a treat. Unlike many baseball fans, I LOVE big furry muppet type mascots. Myron is an actual person, so I went in a little skeptical. How can a minor league travelling attraction be entertaining if they aren't in a big furry costume??
Myron Noodleman is just a funny comedian type of guy doing in between inning sketch gags.
I wasn't sure what to expect from minor league entertainment that wasn't an umpire harassing muppet. I got it pretty quickly though. The whole gimmick starts out a bit slow, but it grows on you quickly. The crowd got in to it pretty quickly too. Watching a nerdy guy doing dance moves (he had the moves down by the way) is just funny. By the end of the game, I wanted to see more of his strange humor.
The funniest part of his act was his fan interaction. He was all over the park messing with fans. It was sort of like watching a clueless annoying fan and a great comedian all at once. His delivery and style are perfect.
Myron is kind of like that joke that doesn't seem funny at first, but then the more you think about it, the funnier it gets. When Myron comes out at the start of the game, he doesn't seem that funny. He dances around and all. Its good for a chuckle. Then, he does the dueling banjo act (mimicking a coach giving signals while a coach responds). That's funny. Then he keeps going. He walks through the crowd like he owns the park, making fun of fans, and just being over the top obnoxious. I saw him bring some hecklers down a few notches too, which was appreciated by everyone, including the hecklers.
I am looking forward to the next time Myron comes to town. His act is entertaining and original. I hope he keeps doing this for decades to come.